SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — A conference focusing on rape in conflict zones ended on an upbeat note Friday, with hundreds of participants from Somalia to Kosovo encouraged by an outpouring of international support.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told participants it was time to “banish sexual violence to the dark ages and the history books.”
“We will not tolerate rape as a tactic of war and intimidation,” he said.
Activists, diplomats and rape survivors left the four-day London summit, co-hosted by actress Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, believing they had made progress in better prosecuting offenders and protecting victims — especially those in developing countries and conflict regions.
Organizers said 155 countries signed a declaration of commitment to end sexual violence in conflict and many, including the U.S. and Britain, pledged funds to support the cause.
Deeq Mohamed, a Somali delegate, said he came away encouraged by the global support, although he knew there was no easy answer to the scourge of sex crimes in war zones.
“You see all the people around the world here and you realize you’re not alone anymore,” he said. “Everybody is making their little difference, and that can make a big change.”
Jolie, a U.N. special envoy, arrived Friday with partner Brad Pitt.
“I believe that one of the outcomes of this summit is that this subject is now firmly on the top table of international diplomacy,” the actress said. “And we will work to ensure that it stays there.”
Kerry’s keynote speech Friday ended with a rousing recital of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” He said Angelou, who recently died, was a rape victim herself who chose to speak out and inspire others.
“We came here to send a message: We rise, we rise . Let’s get the job done,” Kerry said, prompting a standing ovation.
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